* Szczurek says joining euro less attractive than in past
* Poland legally required to join but has no target date
* Poland wants euro zone reforms completed before joining
By Marcin Goettig
WARSAW, Aug 22 Poland is keeping the door open
to euro zone membership, but joining the common currency will
not boost the country's status because it is already a stable
and developed economy, Finance Minister Mateusz Szczurek was
quoted on Friday as saying.
Poland, which joined the European Union in 2004, is legally
obliged to join the euro zone at some point. But it has not set
a target date and says it needs to see the final shape of new
euro zone institutions before it takes further steps towards
adopting the common currency.
"In 2004 the euro zone and Poland were different. Since then
the balance of benefits and costs from switching the currency
has changed," Szczurek told the wnp.pl website.
"Joining the euro zone in itself is no longer a trampoline
to the status of a stable, developed economy - we have already
become one," he said.
"Adopting the euro will also not mean as significant a fall
in interest rates as was earlier indicated. We are already
financing ourselves more cheaply than euro zone countries with
the same (credit) rating," Szczurek said.
Poland has enjoyed years of strong economic growth since
joining the EU, even during the global financial meltdown of
2008-09 and the euro zone debt crisis that began in 2010.
Several other former communist countries that also joined
the EU in 2004, including Slovakia and Estonia, have already
joined the euro, but Poland is much larger.
Szczurek said he could imagine a situation where Poland's
euro zone accession process would have to be accelerated for
"If the conditions for using our strategy of 'keeping a foot
in the door' change to such an extent that these doors start to
crush our foot, that is if there is a need to maintain the
position of Poland in Europe, then I would allow the possibility
of re-evaluating this strategy," Szczurek said.
"However, one cannot rule out a possibility (...) that the
situation in the euro zone is so bad that the 'political
benefits' (...) will not play a significant role," he added.
Some analysts argue that euro zone membership would anchor
Poland more firmly in Western institutions, increasing its
security and political clout.
In March, Poland's central bank governor Marek Belka said
the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine made him more positive about
the benefits for Poland of joining the euro.
But Prime Minister Donald Tusk then said Poland would not
rush to join the euro zone just because of the crisis in
Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are battling Kiev's
forces in the east of the country.
Poland also faces a domestic political obstacle to adopting
the euro as it would need to amend its constitution, which now
states that the zloty is its national currency.
Such a change would require a two-thirds majority in
parliament, something Tusk's centre-right government now lacks.
Opinion polls show a majority of Poles oppose joining the euro.
Asked if Poland should enter the euro zone or not, Szczurek
reiterated the government's public position:
"Enter, but only when we are ready, when we meet the
criteria in a sustainable way and when the euro zone passes
effective institutional reforms."
"We must be convinced that the changes in the European Union
and the euro zone -- including the banking union -- will allow
for an effective reaction in case of a crisis situation in the
future," Szczurek said.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)